Comment

11.03.19

Camberley inspired: investment and regeneration

Source: PSE Feb/March 2019

The decline of the Great British high street has been one of the greatest concerns for local councils in recent years, leading to some innovative efforts to revitalise shopping districts. Karen Whelan, chief executive of Surrey Heath Borough Council (SHBC), tells more on her authority’s proactive approach to high street revival.

When Greg Clark announced that local government would be given the General Power of Competence under the Localism Act of 2011, it was heralded as the ability to do “anything an individual can do that is not specifically prohibited.” The new power centred around giving freedoms to work with others and to drive down costs. Many councils had already embraced these initiatives in the late ‘90s using previous powers at our disposal – an efficient council, seeking collaborative solutions to deliver services, was therefore already well-rehearsed.

The new powers sought to give councils “increased confidence to do creative and innovative things to meet people’s needs” and help them deliver their duties as local authorities. When you overlay the very tough austerity measures that local authorities have faced over the years succeeding this legislation, is it any wonder that many local authorities started looking at asset-backed investments to support the ever-increasing burdens on local authority budgets?

In two-tier local authority administrative areas, the difficulty of meeting revenue demands is significantly magnified. Many county councils are facing huge challenges and an ageing population – and family pressures have huge price tags just to stay still.  Local authorities need to be bold and brave to deliver solutions for the future sustainability of their services and preserve their place.

Large-scale property deals can make local authorities millions of pounds of income.  One has to question why councils, who have exercised the freedoms and flexibilities granted to them by government, now appear to be facing criticism over the scale of their deals? 

At Surrey Heath, the ethos has always been clear: use the powers to supplement either our revenue streams or deliver our priorities and objectives. Our investment portfolio focused on the local area includes a range of pure investment acquisitions alongside the purchase of sites to bring about major redevelopment projects.

Whilst we understand property investment doesn’t come without risk, the income our portfolio has generated offset the £2.7m reduction in government funding.

Camberley town centre

We had already delivered The Atrium development in 2008 in collaboration with Standard Life and Crest Nicholson. This was a significant town centre build of retail, residential, and leisure space.

In 2010, we embarked on our 10-year strategy to regenerate the rest of Camberley town centre. Initially, the plan was to do this in collaboration with private landowner stakeholders, but what became clear was private investors have many priorities countrywide and we would therefore be competing with other offers and the pressure of maximising their return on investment. 

It is also important to note that whatever happens to local towns across the country, it is always the local authority that will be asked to support the area when the private developers move out. So we took the decision to purchase town centre landholdings enabling better control of the whole regeneration programme. Since purchase, we have embarked on an ambitious timetable of delivery. It has seen its challenges, but the achievements to date outweigh the obstacles. 

Our journey is still in its early stages, but the difference we have made in less than two years is very encouraging.

Key projects

  • 2008:

- The Atrium mixed-use development and Park Street improvements complete. 

  • 2016-2018:

- Acquisition of the town centre’s main covered shopping centre and commencing its refurbishment;

- Acquisition of the Ashwood House derelict office building.  Berkeley Homes are now on-site transforming the building to 116 new flats and new commercial space;

- Funding achieved from M3 Enterprise LEP and £900k from SHBC to improve the high street and public realm;

- The acquisition of large areas of the London Road frontage earmarked for future redevelopment via the council’s Area Action Plan.

 

Enjoying PSE? Subscribe here to receive our weekly news updates or click here to receive a copy of the magazine!

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

First minister promises rules review after Caerphilly council’s six-year £4m pay row

25/03/2019First minister promises rules review after Caerphilly council’s six-year £4m pay row

A six-year pay dispute between councillors at Caerphilly County Borough Council at a cost of £4m will mean the rules around senior council ... more >
RBS to wind down £1bn worth of controversial LOBO loans by end of the year

25/03/2019RBS to wind down £1bn worth of controversial LOBO loans by end of the year

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is attempting to wind down the remainder of around £1bn in controversial LOBO bank loans. Seven local... more >
Essex council announces £1bn construction deal

22/03/2019Essex council announces £1bn construction deal

An Essex council has announced a £1bn contract in a joint venture to regenerate council sites and deliver new homes and commercial faciliti... more >
149x260 PSE Subscribe button

the raven's daily blog

Councils Can: LGA launches Spending Review campaign

18/03/2019Councils Can: LGA launches Spending Review campaign

Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, outlines his organisation’s campaign to make sure local government tops to government’s list for this year’s Spending Review. Our #CouncilsCan campaign to influence this year’s Spending Review is well underway and gathering momentum. The money local governm... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

interviews

Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

17/12/2018Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

One of the public sector’s key technology partners has recently welcomed a new member to its team. Matt Spencer, O2’s head of public ... more >
Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need to invest in technology to help make better use of their resources. Bu... more >
New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

05/11/2018New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

The new chief executive of one of the new unitary authorities in Dorset has outlined his approach to culture and work with employees, arguing tha... more >
Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

15/10/2018Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

On 6 September, the biggest decision-makers of the north joined forces to celebrate and debate how to drive innovation and improvement through th... more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

public sector focus

Flexible working being led by the public sector, Softworks survey finds

26/02/2019Flexible working being led by the public sector, Softworks survey finds

The public sector is leading the way in regar... more >
Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

17/12/2018Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

One of the public sector’s key technolo... more >